Many believe that the opioid crisis in the U.S. made its debut when millions of patients were prescribed opioids by their doctors and became addicted. Drastic increases in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed, greater social acceptability for using medications for different purposes, and aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies all led to a perfect storm of addiction for many.
Workers’ Comp Programs Scrutinize Prescription Drug Addiction
Workplace injury is one of the main reasons physicians prescribe opioids and, not surprisingly, workers’ compensation payers spent over a billion dollars for opioids just in 2015, 13% of their total U.S. spending. Research shows that approximately 65% to 85% of injured workers receive narcotic painkillers under workers comp and many can face negative consequences because of their use.
Now, in a turnaround, the industry is trying to solve the problem it helped to create. Programs to steer those at increased risk for opioid addiction to less powerful drugs and into therapy are underway. Opioid education packets are being sent to both patients and doctors in hopes of discouraging misuse. The tracking of refills has become a priority to identify those at risk of addiction.
So far, the results of many of the measures to reduce prescription opioid use and prevent addiction are promising. In a test of one program, opioid prescriptions fell by 14% and in another, a company was able to reduce individual claim costs by as much as 50% using a prevention algorithm.
While prevention measures chug along, many injured workers continue to be prescribed prescription pain medications and many have the risk factors for addiction and opioid-related overdose. As a preventative measure, injured Iowans should work with their doctors to find the best treatments for their injuries that may include alternatives to opioid medication.
Wall Street Journal “Targeting Opioid Use When Workers Get Hurt” By RACHEL EMM A SILVERMAN, November 15, 2016.
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